Eyes set on podium finishes at this year’s Birmingham Commonwealth Games, the Indian men’s and women’s hockey team coaches are looking at the upcoming FIH Pro League matches to gain better insights about the sides ahead of the multi-sport event.
The Indian men’s team is scheduled to play its next round of FIH Pro League matches against hosts Belgium (June 11 and June 12) and the Netherlands (June 18 and June 19), while the women’s side will play Belgium (June 11 and June 12), Argentina (June 18 and June 19) and the United States (June 21 and June 22).
“With little less than two months for the CWG, we will utilise this time to ensure we are best prepared for the prestigious event. The Pro League matches will give us insights into the areas that require improvement ahead of the CWG," Indian men’s team chief coach Graham Reid said in a Hockey India statement.
“We will reconvene the national camp for CWG in the last week of June and we will have good three weeks to prepare before the contingent leaves for Birmingham."
Reid feels with the fringe players doing well, there is a healthy competition to secure places in the Birmingham-bound squad.
“There is an air of optimism among the players and doing well in Belgium and Netherlands will give us the right momentum ahead of the Commonwealth Games in July," Reid said.
“With the Asia Cup team doing well too, our depth of players has only increased, making the team selection process for major tournaments all the more tough and interesting," he added.
Indian women’s hockey team chief coach Janneke Schopman agreed with Reid, stating that the upcoming FIH Pro League matches are crucial for Commonwealth Games’ preparation.
“The next few weeks are definitely going to be challenging and exciting as we play regular matches in June and July leading up to the CWG. Back-to-back Pro League matches will definitely give us the understanding of how the players’ bodies are reacting to recovery and being ready for a game within 24 hours," said Schopman.
Schopman said having narrowly missed a podium place in the 2018 CWG in Jakarta, the Indian women are eying a medal in Birmingham.
“Doing well at both the Pro League and the World Cup is our immediate priority. The team in 2018 CWG finished fourth so definitely a podium finish is on the minds of the players," the former Dutch player said.
The Indian women’s next big assignment after the upcoming Pro League matches is the FIH Women’s World Cup to be jointly hosted by Spain and the Netherlands from July 1 to 17.
In the Birmingham CWG, the Indian men are placed in Pool B alongside England, Canada, Ghana and Wales while the women too are grouped along with England, Ghana, Canada and Wales in Pool A.